🇪🇸 White Lines S1 ~ Spoiler Review 🇬🇧
White Lines is a British-Spanish Netflix Original production. The majority of the dialogue is in English and Spanish with some Romanian (subtitled). 10 episodes 50-103’. Álex Pina (Money Heist/La Casa de Papel and Locked Up/Vis a Vis) created and writes this, along with 6 other writers. Directed by Nick Hamm, Luis Prieto and Ashley Way.
This spoiler review of White Lines looks at cast, characters and analyses some main themes.
Zoe Walker leaves behind her quiet life in Manchester in order to solve the mysterious death of her brother, Axel, a famous DJ who disappeared from Ibiza many years ago. Her investigations lead to the upheaval of her and her family’s life and that of those she encounters along the way.
White Lines Cast:
Laura Haddock ~ Zoe Walker
Nuno Lopes ~ Duarte “Boxer” Silva
Marta Milans ~ Kika Calafat
Daniel Mays ~ Marcus
Juan Diego Botto ~ Oriol Calafat
Pedro Casablanc ~ Andreu Calafat
Belén López ~ Conchita Calafat
Tom Rhys Harries ~ Axel Collins
Angela Griffin ~ Anna
Laurence Fox ~ David
First off, I really enjoyed this show, but it does seem to be a bit divisive amongst viewers. Álex Pina is a creator and writer who plays around with genres and expectations. Those who might expect a serious and straightforward crime show, and who cannot suspend disbelief, may well be disappointed.
White Lines progresses from a fairly normal start with a good hook, which isn’t too “out there” to rapidly throwing in comedy, farce, action and violence. Characters and context are introduced fairly rapidly during episode 1. By episode 2 the spinning plates begin to fly off in different directions. Suspension of disbelief is a must.
We see slapstick comedy juxtaposed with the theatre of the absurd, extreme violence, sex and drugs and “rock ‘n’ roll” (well more like ‘80s club scene music, modern club tunes and Latin rhythms). There are nods to movies such as James Bond (the one-liners) and then genres such as the telenovela and rom-com taken to their absolute extremes.
Imagine the most outrageous family dynamic you possibly can: a therapy session that leaves the viewer feeling much like David does (“phew”!); a dinner party held “to remember a dead friend and move on” that erupts into havoc, violence and something of a cathartic experience – with emotional and romantic angst thrown in for good measure.
Andreu Calafat says a key piece of dialogue to Boxer when they are on the beach in episode 1:
“In films, everything is easy. This guy’s going to be ruined, that guy’s a bastard, this one’s a killer… But in life… In real life, you can’t see shit.”
One of the themes of the show is family: family in the widest sense of the word. We have the Calafats (Andreu, Conchita, Oriol, Kika and Boxer), the Martínez family (Pepe and Cristobal), Zoe with her husband Mike, daughter Jenny, her father Clint and then the “family” of Marcus, Anna (their children) and David. Axel, now long dead, is still haunting his “families”, enemies and acquaintances.
Parents damage their children, through their absence of affection, through their unwillingness to challenge, to love, to support and nurture or the simple lack of them “being there”. Oriol, Kika, Axel, Zoe, Boxer are all examples of this. Oriol, for example, with a total lack of affection from one parent but with enormous overcompensation from the other, suffers disastrous consequences. Parental abandonment of one kind or another is very much present.
The father of Zoe and Axel could not move on from his wife’s death, rejected his son (in effect he stopped loving him) and this deeply affected both of his children.
Zoe stayed with her father, became clinically depressed, tried to commit suicide and never developed fully as an adult, being “stuck” as a 15-year-old. Even when Axel and his friends were still in Manchester she was taken to parties and raves with them, given drugs and saw them having sex; far from a healthy upbringing.
Mike was older than her, and a volunteer at her mental health facility, who helped her recover. Zoe ended up marrying him (this is very much NOT what a male volunteer should possibly do with a young, vulnerable client) and had a child whilst still very young. Mike is controlling and there’s a whole Saviour-complex thing going on. While he appears on the surface to be supportive of her he is self-absorbed and manipulative.
Zoe (irritating though she may be as a character) is integral to the story and the drama. She has no ability to assess risk, weigh up choices or anticipate possible results. This is all because she has been “protected” by father, husband and therapist and has never had a chance to develop those skills. She is easily manipulated, incredibly impulsive and volatile (just like the teenager that she is, still, mentally). In many ways Zoe has never truly lived.
And this is her journey to finding her true self.
Axel reacted to his mother’s death in another way, following her words to never be sad and to outrun grief. He says that his grief has got stuck inside somehow.
From a youthful, and somewhat idealistic rebellion, he runs at a million miles an hour through a wildly hedonistic lifestyle. Having been rejected and thrown out by his father ultimately he crashes and burns. The burning of all the money in that wooden statue (which exactly matches his stance when standing on the roof about to plunge into the pool) is deeply symbolic. This self-destructive, toxic lifestyle ultimately ends up with his tragic murder by people who were supposed to be his friends, his surrogate family (Anna and Marcus).
Axel and his friends:
The other family is the circle of Axel and his friends and we see these in two eras, with the notable exception of Axel – although he still wields enormous influence over their lives. He gets one friend hooked on heroin (David), betrays another (Marcus) by having sex with his girlfriend (Anna) and betrays them all by burning their money.
Marcus is the loveable fool (much of the comedic interludes revolve around him such as the whole Romanian storyline) who is driven by his love for his wife to do very stupid things! He gets involved in the drug trade to pay for a house he cannot afford and runs over his best friend.
Anna is a strange one and we know little about her background except that her father was a lawyer.
David has gone through a “spiritual awakening” but was always enthralled by, and truly loved, Axel.
Boxer is portrayed in some ways as a knightly figure (he even drives a white car instead of riding the traditional white horse) cultured, emotional with a strong moral compass but also has a real temper and is perfectly capable of extreme violence.
He was also abandoned as a small child and raised by his grandfather and although he seems adjusted to this is still, inevitably, damaged.
This is a man who is also on a journey, so from the discovery of Axel’s body and the arrival of Zoe, and his character arc has him resigning from the Calafat’s employ because he is a “different person” and carrying on as he has been for all those years is slowly destroying him emotionally. He says he is the person who always says “yes”, but we see that this is not the balance he needs either and that he starts to say “no” (declining “friends with benefits” and resigning because of the lies).
Boxer and Zoe:
How Boxer and Zoe interact is an essential part of the story arc of Season 1 and it is clear this will continue into season 2 (assuming the show is renewed). There are some truly erotic scenes involving these two: Portuguese lasagne night, muddy sex on top of the buried dead and packets of cocaine… not symbolic at all, that.
Zoe’s father asks her, “Do you want your life to fall apart again? Panic attacks, popping pills, somebody looking at you while you sleep?” This is a great bit of foreshadowing for this is exactly what happens with her and Boxer, but not in the way her father imagines.
This may appear to be a shallow show (and certainly can be watched as such) but the themes it delves into are very deep ones. What is it that allows us to find our true selves? How does grief affect families? What is loyalty? Why do people act and react in self-destructive ways? How do parents damage their children? Do you have to destroy or break up in order to rebuild? What is love?
At one point in the show the Calafats hold a family therapy session with David and the story of Œdepus is retold. In many ways White Lines is a Greek tragedy removed in time and place to modern Ibiza. All these characters are on a journey. But the “truth”… as Zoe says in her final scene, “The truth is overrated”.
The whole cast, British, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian are excellent in this. Stand out performances for me were Nuno Lopes as Boxer, Daniel Mays as “loser” Marcus, Tom Rhys Harries as Axel and Belén López as Kika.
The soundtrack for this show is excellent and all the songs are used to great effect – often as a seque way between scenes. Cinematography is also a strong aspect with great establishing shots, aerials, underwater and interior scenes etc. Some of the locations are simply stunning.
What’s in store for season 2? We have loose ends. How did Axel’s body get from Ibiza to the desert in Almería? What will happen about the false eye that Oriol found in Boxer’s life jacket? Will Marcus become the right hand man in the Calafat’s drug trade, or will Andreu just carry on laughing? Is Boxer truly free of the Calafats? What is the chance that the buried bodies and drugs be discovered? Will Zoe and Boxer reunite and will she apologise to him? How will we feel quite the next time we use a jet spray?
Personally, I cannot wait!